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Unplanned pharmacy closures topped 3,000 in July

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Unplanned pharmacy closures topped 3,000 in July


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There were more than 3,000 instances in July of a pharmacy being unexpectedly closed to the public, according to NHS England figures seen by Pharmacy Network News.

The 3,056 separate occasions of unplanned closure in the month represent a new monthly high. Almost 3,500 pharmacies in England – 31 per cent of the total – have now reported one or more unplanned closures since October 2021. 

The trend is to longer closures. Some 55 per cent of all closures in July were under four hours in duration, compared with more than 70 per cent in October. The 12,445 hours lost in unplanned closures in July (October 2021, 2,705) is a new high, beating the 8,683 hours lost in February during the omicron Covid wave. 

There were sharp increases in the number of unplanned closures in July at both Well and Tesco. Tesco had 112 closures per 100 pharmacies in July, although the company had not been an outlier among chains in prior months. In the previous nine months, LloydsPharmacy had seen the most unplanned closures by this measure.

The regional chains selected performed much better; both Day Lewis and Gorgemead (Cohens) reported three unplanned closures per 100 pharmacies in July. Chains dominate the figures overall. The unplanned closure rate for “all other pharmacies” is fewer than 5 in 100. 

Unsurprisingly, being unable to find a locum is far and away the biggest reason for a closure, accounting for more than half of all closures in July at Asda, Boots, Lloydspharmacy and Tesco, as well as at “all other pharmacies” not split out of the data. In July, Rowlands reported being particularly hit by short term staff sickness, which accounted for almost 40 per cent of their unplanned closures.  

In terms of patient impact, the vast majority of closed pharmacies are less than a kilometre from the next nearest pharmacy; five pharmacies more than 12km from the next nearest and five pharmacies with closures totalling 100 hours or more in July are highlighted for further investigation. 

Over the 10 months covered by the data, ′40-hour′ pharmacies had recorded 1.4 total closures per pharmacy, compared to 3.7 total closures per 100-hour pharmacy. 

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